County calls ‘snow day’ for all but essential services

By From page A3 | February 22, 2013

BUTTON UP! A pedestrian buttons her coat while walking down Stagecoach Alley on Tuesday. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

BUTTON UP! A pedestrian buttons her coat while walking down Stagecoach Alley on Tuesday. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

Tuesday at 2 p.m. El Dorado County government declared a “snow day.” All non-essential employees were sent home and only emergency services personnel remained on duty. The sudden and unexpected dump caught motorists and residents unaware, and workers who had gone to lunch called in to say they wouldn’t be back at their posts.

County Department of Transportation’s maintenance director Don Spear said all his resources were thrown into the breach to clear roads, shove debris aside and clear enough minimum space for vehicles to get through.

“We had snow down to around 1,800 feet with about 2 inches at our maintenance yard in Placerville. There was around 6 to 8 inches average at 3,000 feet and 8 to 10 inches at 4,000 feet. All of our equipment was running but due to the low snow level, our forces were spread pretty thin,” Spear noted in an e-mail to the Mountain Democrat Wednesday afternoon.
“I hate snow days,” Chief Administrative Office Principal Analyst Mike Applegarth confessed in a phone conversation earlier on Wednesday. Later he explained that the official decision to shut down was made by Chief Administrative Officer Terri Daly in consultation with Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Briggs.
“The night shift concentrated on sanding operations due to the clear weather and we should have all roads plowed by the end of day shift today,” Spear added. “No further storms expected for at least a week, so we can start widening roadways in the higher country by Thursday.”
The Lake Tahoe area was relatively unscathed, getting only about three inches of snow and Spear reported, “The storm mainly stayed on the west slope of the crest and moved south. This why there was more snow accumulation in the 3,000 feet to 4,000 feet than the higher elevations.”
Describing some other DOT operations, Spear said, “tree calls were at a minimum even with the low snow level. We will be on 24-hour operations through the week and will have staff on call this weekend with a small crew out to handle emergency calls.”
Services and programs under the Health and Human Services Department, including the Psychiatric Health Facility, remained open and fully staffed.

“Our on-call employees were activated for other critical, core functions such as Protective Services, Communicable Disease Control and Animal Services,” Communications Officer Maggie Williams wrote via e-mail Thursday morning. “We did have a number of staff who remained working after the closure was declared so that they could finish assisting members of the public and/or for safety reasons. For example, at our Senior Day Care Center in Placerville, all of the staff stayed until all of the seniors were safely on their way home.”

Williams further checked with Animal Services Director Henry Brzezinski who reported “no unusual animal stories related to the snow on that day.”

Elsewhere around the county, the El Dorado Union High School District authorized a two-hour delayed start in morning classes Wednesday for El Dorado High School in Placerville and Union Mine High School in El Dorado. Many students are bussed in from higher elevations to those two schools and the transportation unit had to wait for snow removal or to chain and unchain school bus tires.

While none of the district’s schools were closed early Tuesday afternoon, some bus routes were seriously delayed delivering their students home. The most significant was a high-country student who was finally dropped off about 6:25, almost two hours later than usual, according to Associate Superintendent Baldev Johal.

Johal also noted that all 25 district buses were “impacted” by the snow at some point between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon, that is, all had to chain-up at some point on their routes.

Ponderosa and Oak Ridge High Schools were not affected enough by the weather to warrant closure or alternate scheduling.
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo. 

Chris Daley

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